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Nats blow up Scherzer market, land top free agent

St. Louis area native Max Scherzer won't play for the Cardinals after all.

Overnight the former Detroit Tigers ace agreed to a contract that will tie him to the Washington Nationals if not for the rest of his career, at least for the remainder of his prime.

The Redbirds had been linked to Scherzer in rumors going into the weekend with multiple reports claiming St. Louis was trying to find a creative way to land the top free agent this off-season. The Cardinals were reportedly hoping to convince the former Cy Young Award winner to agree to a deal with a maximum term of five years.

One report speculated that St. Louis was discussing a deal with Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, that would have paid him $156 million over five seasons. I thought a maximum of six years and $160 million was the most the Redbirds could afford to go.

But, while Scherzer's market languished for weeks into months, in the end the Nationals swooped in, blew away the market and gave the pitcher a seven-year contract for more than $180 million. 

It was simply higher than the Cardinals were willing to go.

As I said when the Anaheim Angels gave Albert Pujols a quarter of a billion dollars, all it takes is one idiot to drive prices up and put baseball a little more out of the reach of the average fan.

The Birds' options to land a high end pitcher now seem to be extremely limited. The Tigers were the favorite to bring back Scherzer and his defection now makes it extremely unlikely that the club will part with lefty hurler David Price. Meanwhile the Philadelphia Phillies have been asking for several arms and legs in exchange for their ace, Cole Hamels.

St. Louis, the San Diego Padres and the Texas Rangers were said to be interested in Hamels. That bidding war may have cooled a bit, however, with the Rangers are close to landing Milwaukee Brewers hurler Yovani Gallardo.

There is some speculation that Washington may part with one of its starters now that Scherzer is on board.

But, in order to make a trade, the Cardinals would have to dig deep into their young talent pool. And I would be extremely surprised to see the club let go of Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales as well as a young position player or two to land a hurler. Especially if the target is in the last year of his contract like Price.

So it seems, even though their actions indicate that they were reluctant to do so, that the Cardinals will go into the 2015 season with the talented but raw youngsters Martinez and Gonzales battling it out to be the fifth starter.

And Cardinals fans will hold their breath while hoping Adam Wainwright's elbow holds up, Michael Wacha's shoulder is healed and that the 36-year-old arm of John Lackey stays together.